Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 15: We Shall Overcome
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7 Segment 8

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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Segment 6
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America's cities have been neglected. In many, schools are terrible, crime makes life frightening, and there aren't enough jobs for those who want to work. People are fed up with waiting for the President's programs to work. In 1965, riots in the Watts section of Los Angeles last six days See It Now - Los Angeles Riots and leave thirty-four dead. Chicago, Cleveland, and other cities erupt with riots of their own. Johnson asks Illinois Governor Otto Kerner to head a commission to investigate the riots. The commission finds they can all be traced to white racism. Its report says: "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal."

Black protests begin changing direction. New leaders appear; many, like Malcolm X, are angry Check The Source - Malcolm X. They have no patience with Dr. King's doctrine of nonviolence. The new leaders don't talk about brotherhood and love; they talk of power, separation, sometimes hate. One of them, Stokely Carmichael, See It Now - Stokely Carmichael has a huge following.

By 1968, the country seems to be coming apart. The war in Vietnam isn't helping. Soldiers come home trained to shoot, kill, and show no pity. See It Now - Prisoner Many have learned to use drugs in Asia. Back home they are like lighted matches in those packed cities. Meanwhile John F. Kennedy's brother, Robert Kennedy See It Now - Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Robert Kennedy, is emerging as a civil rights and anti-war leader. He tells King he needs to bring his battle for justice north. He speaks to the thousands who marched from Selma to Montgomery. "The brutalities of the North receive no such attention," Kennedy says. "I have been in tenements in Harlem in the past several weeks where the smell of rats was so strong that it was difficult to stay there for five minutes, and where children slept with lights turned on their feet to discourage rat attacks. Thousands do not flock to Harlem to protest these conditions."

King decides to begin a new campaign. It will be a campaign against poverty. His program is aimed at "all the poor, including the two-thirds of them who are white." He plans to bring poor people to Washington. This will not be a one-day march. They will stay; they will camp in the city; the government will have to pay attention. In a ringing condemnation of American society King says: "Poverty has no justification in our age. War is obsolete."

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Did You Know?
Someone who won't serve with the military because of deep religious convictions is called a "conscientious objector."

Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?

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